The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee Wednesday morning voted 11 to 10 to advance formed California labor chief Julie Su’s nomination to become the next federal Secretary of Labor.
The vote – as expected – was a strictly party line affair, with all 11 Democrats voting yes and all 10 Republicans saying no.
Su’s nomination to lead the Labor Department has come under fire due to her partisan past and her gross incompetence while overseeing the state’s Employment Development Department, which lost about $40 billion to fraudsters during the pandemic.
“Julie Su has an extensive record of partisan activism and promoting policies that undermine workers to the benefit of politically-connected labor unions,” said Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, the ranking Republican on the committee. “A qualified Secretary of Labor needs to successfully handle negotiations, manage a department properly, and refrain from partisan activism. I haven’t seen evidence of Julie Su’s ability to do any of those three things.”
The vote comes about a week after Su’s testimony in front of the committee, during which she claimed to have immediately “shut the front door” on fraud when she became aware of the problem and that California had one of the lowest pandemic unemployment fraud rates in the nation.
Both of those statements are false.
According to the California State Auditor, “(D)espite repeated warnings, EDD (under Su) did not bolster its fraud detection efforts until months into the pandemic…(including allowing) claimants to collect benefits even though they were using suspicious addresses—in one case, more than 1,700 claims were coming from a single address.”
As to the rate of fraud, California actually realized a rate of about 22% and, while having only about 12% of the nation’s workers, processed 21% of all unemployment claims which, one would assume, should have been seen as a red flag to the EDD.
Despite the falsehoods propagated by Su, HELP committee Chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) remains committed to Su:
“I strongly support Julie Su’s nomination,” said Sanders. “She has been an excellent Deputy Secretary of Labor for the last two years, an excellent Acting Secretary of Labor, and I believe that she will make an excellent Secretary of Labor.”
Su also faces opposition from a range of state and national business groups, in large part for her “witchfinder general” adamance in supporting and enforcing the notorious AB-5 bill that gutted the independent, freelance, and gig economies in an effort to bolster union membership. Though the bill has been modified to allow for certain industries and jobs to be exempted – an amazing 135 or so in fact (the exemption list is longer than the bill) – Su has also supported the PRO Act which would put many of AB-5’s strictures into effect at a federal level.
“Julie Su is the most radical and flawed nominee for Secretary of Labor in recent memory. Her abysmal track record demonstrates that she does not have the competency or skills necessary to hold the office of Secretary of Labor. Her commitment to anti-business, anti-worker policies makes her a threat to entrepreneurs and workers across the nation,” said Rachel Tripp of the Stand Against Su advocacy group. “The advancement of Su’s nomination imperils the livelihoods of millions of independent contractors, tipped workers, franchisees, and small business owners. It is critical that the Senate step up and vote against Su’s nomination.”
Despite making it out of committee, Su faces a rough road to get to final Senate confirmation. The 49 Republicans – unlike when they let Eric Garcetti become ambassador to India – seem adamantine and unified in their opposition to Su.
Unless and until Democrats re-animate Sen. Diane Feinstein to the point where she can vote, Su’s confirmation “wiggle room” is only two votes and at least four have yet to absolutely commit to voting for her – Manchin of West Virginia, Kelly and Sinema of Arizona, and Tester of Montana. If she loses one, Democrat Vice President Harris would have to break the tie in her favor; if she loses two, she’s toast.
It is not yet known when Su’s nomination will come up for that final vote, though if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announces the date relatively soon it would most likely mean he thinks he has the votes – if he delays, that will signal the Su’s confirmation is significantly in doubt.
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